“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

According to Dean Bokhari’s summary of the book “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Start with “The Focusing Question.”

“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

You’ll want to write that down… because the whole entire book is based around that single question, and the power of organizing every area of your life around ONE Thing (per area).

The Domino Effect

The key to success is figuring out your ONE most important thing in your business/career/life over the long-run. Think of this as your “someday” goal.  Once you’ve figured that out, you need to identify how many dominoes you need to line up – and then knock down – in order to achieve it. Simple right? … actually, yeah. It is. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek”: The day Martin Luther King was punched twice by a Nazi

Brad Pierce's Blog

According to Ron Rosenbaum interviewing MLK biographer Taylor Branch about his “battle to prevent Dr. King’s profoundly considered theory of nonviolence from being relegated to history, and not recognized for its relevance to the issues America and the world faces today”

King’s practice, Branch says, was complex and radical and has been often misunderstood. Some of his closest supporters had their doubts about King’s own commitment to nonviolence—whether it was “personal” or just an abstraction for him.

During a meeting of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a man rose up from the audience, leapt onto the stage and smashed King in the face. Punched him hard. And then punched him again.

After the first punch, Branch recounts, King just dropped his hands and stood there, allowed the assailant (who turned out to be a member of the American Nazi Party) to punch him again. And when King’s associates tried…

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New morals, new principles, compromised beyond repair

Condensed from Milton Mayer’s They thought they were free; the Germans, 1933-45 (U. of Chicago Press, 1955). The following comments are attributed to a German philologist (pp. 166-172).

It took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath.

The whole process was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your `little men’; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about, but kept us so busy with continuous changes and `crises’ and so fascinated by the machinations of the `national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.

To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it, unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, `regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these `little measures’ that no `patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing.

How is this to be avoided? Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims `Resist the beginnings’ and `Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist the beginnings, and how is this to be done?

Your `little men’ were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders.

One doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to `go out of your way to make trouble.’ And it is not just fear that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets `everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, `It’s not so bad’ or `You’re seeing things’ or `You’re an alarmist.’

And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. On the one hand, your enemies intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, people who have always thought as you have.

In small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to – to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait.

But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest … But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

And one day, too late, your principles all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy saying `Jew swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you were born in – your nation, your people – is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.

Life has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father could not have imagined.

Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.


The best-performing coders have larger, quieter, more private workspaces

According to David Walker on February 25, 2001 reviewing DeMarco and Lister’s Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

Peopleware says this: give smart people physical space, intellectual responsibility and strategic direction. DeMarco and Lister advocate private offices and windows. They advocate creating teams with aligned goals and limited non-team work. They advocate managers finding good staff and putting their fate in the hands of those staff. The manager’s function, they write, is not to make people work but to make it possible for people to work.

Why is Peopleware so important to Microsoft and a handful of other successful companies? Why does it inspire such intense devotion amongst the elite group of people who think about software project management for a living? […] Peopleware’s persuasiveness comes from its numbers – from its simple, cold, numerical demonstration that improving programmers’ environments will make them more productive.
The numbers in Peopleware come from DeMarco and Lister’s Coding War Games, a series of competitions to complete given coding and testing tasks in minimal time and with minimal defects. The Games have consistently confirmed various known facts of the software game. For instance, the best coders outperform the ten-to-one, but their pay seems only weakly linked to their performance. But DeMarco and Lister also found that the best-performing coders had larger, quieter, more private workspaces. It is for this one empirical finding that Peopleware is best known.

(As an aside, it’s worth knowing that DeMarco and Lister tried to track down the research showing that open-plan offices make people more productive. It didn’t exist. Cubicle makers just kept saying it, without evidence – a technique Peopleware describes as “proof by repeated assertion”.)

Around their Coding Wars data, DeMarco and Lister assembled a theory: that managers should help programmers, designers, writers and other brainworkers to reach a state that psychologists call “flow” – an almost meditative condition where people can achieve important leaps towards solving complex problems. It’s the state where you start work, look up, and notice that three hours have passed. But it takes time – perhaps fifteen minutes on average – to get into this state. And DeMarco and Lister that today’s typical noisy, cubicled, Dilbertesque office rarely allows people 15 minutes of uninterrupted work. In other words, the world is full of places where a highly-paid and dedicated programmer or creative artist can spend a full day without ever getting any hard-core work [done]. Put another way, the world is full of cheap opportunities for people to make their co-workers more productive, just by building their offices a bit smarter.

Active learning methods are more effective than lecturing

According to Mark Guzdial

Last year, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencepublished a meta-analysis of 225 studies (see paper here). The conclusion appeared as the title of the paper, Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. There is increasing evidence that improved teaching reduces the achievement gap between disadvantaged and more advantaged students, e.g., in Biology (see paper here) and in Computer Science (see new paper here from ICER 2015).

Now, Nature has just published a paper (see it here), Why we are teaching science wrong, and how to make it right, which includes the quote, “At this point it is unethical to teach any other way.” Wired magazine’s article on the active learning papers (see link here) makes the connection more explicit: “The impact of these data should be like the Surgeon General’s report on ‘Smoking and Health’ in 1964–-they should put to rest any debate about whether active learning is more effective than lecturing.”

It’s now a matter of science, not opinion. Active learning methods are more effective than lecturing. We should encourage use of active learning methods in our classrooms. The blog post linked here connects to resources for improved teaching methods in computer science. There are active learning methods that we can use even in large classes, like Peer Instruction (see PeerInstruction4CS.org).

Feedback — a rare and important mechanism behind success

According to

It’s undeniable that Ericsson identified an important mechanism behind success: feedback. Without feedback, “it’s very hard to imagine how people would get better,” he says. Feedback is rare. Life is not like chess. Most real-world situations don’t yield immediate returns. We’re free to make the same mistakes again and again. Take medicine, where Ericsson is trying to apply his insights. Many doctors will diagnose a patient and then not see that patient again. They’ll never know if they were right. “In those environments,” he says, “would you be able to learn?”

See also “Practice only makes perfect if you’re paying attention” and “Journey out of error“.